World Book Night - April 23

A Celebration of Books and Reading

Full Frame Shot Of Books In Shelves
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World Book Night is a celebration—and promotion—of books and reading held on April 23 in the United States, the U.K., and Ireland. The event is sponsored by a wide variety of book publishing industry businesses and associations.

What Happens on World Book Night?

While World Book Night can be observed in many ways, during the 2012 World Book Night U.S. (the first in the United States), volunteer “givers” will hand out upwards of a million free, specially-selected books to adults and young adults.

The free book giveaway was orchestrated in the hopes of encouraging reading among new readers, underserved readers, and "light" readers, and to increase reading among adults in general. The give-aways will take place in public spaces, all over the country.

The organizer of WBN is World Book Night U.S., a non-profit organization supported by the publishing industry.

The Background and Genesis of World Book Night

The date of April 23 has a rich literary history and, since 1995, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated it World Book and Copyright Day.

Since the mid-1990s, the U.K. and Ireland have celebrated their World Book Day on the first Thursday in March by giving children a book token that can be exchanged for a free book. World Book Night, geared to celebrating books and promoting reading to adults, was begun in the U.K. and Ireland in 2011 and inaugurated in the United States in 2012.

World Book Night Free Special Editions

The books chosen to be handed out on the first World Book Night U.S. were specially reprinted into exclusive paperback editions expressly for the purpose of the free giveaway (reselling these editions is not permitted).

To make the World Book Night free book distribution possible, authors of the chosen books forego royalties on the special editions, and many other institutions in the book publishing industry donate goods, services, and money.

These include the publishers of the selected books; the American Booksellers Association (ABA); Barnes and Noble; the American Library Association (ALA); the Association of American Publishers; Ingram Book Company; UPS; and printers and binders.

World Book Night Book Selection Process

The books included in the World Book Night U.S. promotion are carefully chosen for a number of factors, including a mixture of different types of books: fiction and non-fiction; adult and young adult (YA); literary reads and “commercial” (that is, popular) or genre books. The titles are also balanced between author genders, ethnicities, publishers (small and large presses), and geographic locations. According to WBN U.S., common factors to all the books are “passion and popularity... quality and accessibility.”

A wide, initial list of books is drawn up from publishing’s most respected titles, using criteria such as Indie Next/Book Sense Reading Group Picks (from the American Bookseller Association); Barnes & Noble Discover Picks; and American Library Association’s best books of the year; as well as National Book Award-winners and Pulitzer-Prize winners. To include the perspective of readers, popular criteria is used, for example,’s most requested reading group guides titles;’s top 100 books; or Above the Treeline’s bestsellers.

The list of books is narrowed to those that fall into multiple categories of the initial honors mentioned above. It is then submitted to several rounds of selection by teams of booksellers and librarians and eventually winnowed (in 2012, the list had 30 books).

World Book Night Volunteer Givers

To participate in the World Book Night U.S. giveaway, volunteer “givers” are required to fill out an online application. Each WBN giver made three choices from the selection of books to be given out so that the volunteer had a personal connection to the book selected. This was encouraged so that the giver could be enthused about the title and, hopefully, pass that enthusiasm on to the recipients of the book.

World Book Night givers select their “giving” locations, with advice that they should pick a safe, well-populated public area, or indoor setting, like a hospital or school.

Additional Celebrations:

The 2014 World Book Night U.S. celebration (including the list of books given)

The inaugural 2012 World Book celebrations

UNESCO's World Book and Copyright Day.